Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cooper's Hawk

Widespread and dangerous, the Cooper’s Hawk snatches a bird from your feeder in a flash.  Carrying his prey away from his body with long legs and curved claws, he repeatedly squeezes the life out of it…time to eat.

That’s why birds at your feeder are so skittish.   They’re always on guard for the Cooper’s Hawk.  Flying fast and low, while maneuvering his three-foot wingspan through thick brush, he appears suddenly and disappears just as quickly. You’re lucky if you catch the catch. 

A small bird may get away, but a starling, dove or jay, along with an occasional squirrel or chipmunk, often doesn’t.  A stray feather under the feeder may be the only evidence of his arrival and departure.  With a gunmetal blue-gray back, camouflaged mottled breast and forward facing eyes, the Cooper’s Hawk is an efficient predator, although some Cooper’s Hawks bear scars of unsuccessful hunts.

In a study examining over 300 Cooper’s Hawk skeletons, 23 percent showed old, healed-over breast bone fractures, most likely due to hunting crashes.

Formerly hated as the ‘chicken hawk’ for its believed predation on poultry, its impact on domestic animals is now known to have been negligible.

The Cooper’s Hawk is one of several birds that has recovered well from the ban on the pesticide DDT, the chemical that almost wiped-out America’s Bald Eagle.  The Cooper’s Hawk has recovered so well it is now threatening the viability of another predator bird, the American Kestrel.